You should definitely have a heart-to-heart discussion with your in-laws about their Colombian-Catholic influence on your daughters provided that you and your wife have already agreed exactly how you are raising your children with respect to religion and culture. (And if you haven’t yet, it’s time.) It’s understandable that you see crosses and mass as more religious than cultural and the fact that you’ve “had enough” means this needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
While you figure out how exactly you want to handle their grandparent’s Catholic influence, it’s important that you find other ways for your children to connect to their Colombian side. I suggest finding a diverse Jewish community where your daughters can interact with other Jews that have multi-cultural backgrounds, where Spanish is spoken, and go to their potlucks rather than the church gatherings. The organization Be’Chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) is a fabulous resource for learning about diversity and the global Jewish community.
It’s wonderful that your in-laws are so invested in spending time with your family. They are doing what comes naturally to them: sharing their love of Colombian infused Catholicism with the people they love. Encourage your wife’s parents to instead share their country of origin’s history, food, art and language with their granddaughters. Help them understand that you and their daughter are responsible for your children’s religious upbringing. Then start the Jewish New Year off by inviting them to celebrate Shabbat with your family. Your daughters will enjoy the ritual of lighting candles, blessing wine, and eating challah, your in-laws will feel included, and you will be stepping up to the Jewish fathering plate in a positive manner.
Dr. Keren R. McGinity is an intermarriage consultant affiliated with Brandeis University. Her books include the newly released “Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood” and “Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America”, a National Jewish Book Award finalist. Learn more at www.loveandtradition.com.